November 8, 2009

Coffee Interviews: Serif Basaran

Starting with this post, I'll have interviews with people from the world coffee market. I got the first interview with Mr Serif Basaran, who is a famous barista in Turkey.

Mahir: Could you tell us who you are and what's your relationship with coffee?

Serif: G’day... I have currently several positions at the coffee industry at both national and international levels. From national perspective, I have my own coffee and café consulting company called Kiva Han Coffee.  We roast, blend and pack our own specialty coffee beans, which we import around the world. We are also exclusive distributors of several coffee related international brands like Rancilio Espresso Machines, Pulycaff Coffee Machine Cleaning products, Metallurgica Motta Barista Tools, etc.

I also hold some positions at international level. I am a certified SCAE and AASCA Barista, and I am also the national coordinator of the Speciality Coffee Assn Europe (SCAE) in Turkey. Moreover, I teach other coffee enthusiasts and baristi at international workshops, take place as judge at international barista championships. Furthermore, I also participate to the World Cezve/Ibrik Championships competitions (also known in most countries as the World Turkish Coffee Championship) as a director.

Mr Serif Basaran at World Turkish Coffee Championship

M: As far as I know your education is based on computer technologies. So, how did you fall in love with coffee? What were your motivations when you decided to be a barista?

S: Yes, that is true. My educational background is about computer industry, but I never liked the “technology” industry, which nails you to your seat in an office and you have limited communication with consumers or users. I liked building relationship with my customers in my own cafe bar in Sydney CBD (Australia) and smiling to them, after they took the first sip of my served coffee. And there was a big influence to get addicted to become a professional barista -thanks my barista trainers George Sabados (Coffee Guru) and Paul Basset (WBC Champion 2003). It was my goal to become one of the bests in this industry, which I partly achieved. I was the winner of the Coffee Excellence Awards in Copenhagen 2008 for the Coffee Education Award.

M: How about the making the decision of launching a coffee business? I think becoming an entrepreneur in coffee business, in which a number of multinational chains already compete, must be a hard decision. What reactions did you receive from your family and friends? What were the main problems you faced?

S: My family and friends “forced” me to compete against the national and international competitors and I was at the beginning of a lot of problems in Turkey with paperwork and the bureaucracy. And then again I had to confront several problems with coffee companies and individuals, which were not very happy with my free of charge coffee educations where I showed to the most baristi and cafe owners that which coffee are good, average, bad and “not consumable”. Turkey had an average between “not consumable” and bad coffee two years ago. And the baristi made it just worst with their experimental technique. So, it was really hard work that I had to face and I started actually not from the “cafe owners” or from local distributors and representatives, I started directly from the baristi. I showed them the right technique, explained how the coffee should be etc. It took long, but I realized, that it was the right way to start for me.

M: Today you're one of the leading coffee experts in Turkey. How did you develop yourself as a barista and coffee expert?

S: The coffee industry is a variable industry with its innovative technology and changing climate. The climate change and soil is one of the main factors to grow good coffee trees and the brewing machine technology such as espresso machines, filter machines and domestic coffee solutions (capsules, soft and hard pods, sticks etc.) are improving so often, that we must research, attend trainings and workshops as much as possible. We have to learn the new technology and develop our self every year and listen our customers and consumers, this is the key to success.

M: How do you see world and Turkish coffee markets? What are your expectations about the future trends?

S: Unfortunately, we have in Turkey a very bad coffee taste, which gives the big coffee importers the opportunity to buy the cheapest coffee beans from Brazil and sell it as a “ground” to the Turkish market. Turkish people are used to consume Brazil Minas coffees since approximately 80 years and that is the reason why Turkish market is strangely to much more qualitative coffees like Yemeni, Ethiopian or Central American Coffees. If the Turkish coffee industry refuses to use more qualitative coffees, we’ll never increase the export sales and the popularity of the Turkish coffee market in the world market. We must understand that Turkish coffee is a brewing type and not a coffee bean type that is grown in Turkey. Local Turkish coffee companies are importing the beans and exporting it after roasting, grinding and packing to several countries and it is a huge market with cheap coffees. If we’ll roast specialty coffees for the world Turkish coffee market, then I think we’ll have a chance to integrate the Turkish coffee to the menus of big coffee chains like Starbucks, Gloria Jeans, Costa Coffee and Cafe Nero, not only in their Turkish branches but also in the US and Europe ones. This would be a great marketing for Turkey and its name. Also it will increase the sales of Turkish coffee side products like Roasting Machines, Cezve’s, Hand Mill’s, Foca Stone Grinders etc.

M: Please tell us about your favorite coffee and brewing method?

S: This is a hard question to answer. It depends on the coffee used mostly. I like Central Americans as Espresso, African and Yemeni as French press or filter coffees. But mostly I prefer the French press method, because it is the simplest method and gives the truest taste of a single origin. If the coffee is fresh and good, I enjoy every sip.

M: If we talk about Turkish coffee, what're your suggestions about this special brewing?

Use an external heating source (like cezve) and DON’T use an espresso machine steamer, which will kill the ritual of the presentation and also change the taste habits rapidly.

M: Ironically, Turkish coffee's been becoming less and less popular, especially among young generations, in Turkey. Do you think that instant coffee will continue dominating Turkish coffee market in the future? What should Turkish coffee industry do to perform better against instant coffee?

S: Instant coffee is dominating not just Turkish coffee market but also dominating the entire world. This is because; it is easy to use and easy to clean. But after people realized that it is made with cheap and bad quality coffees, one of the biggest instant coffee producers moved to an easier and innovative product range, which is known as “capsule” coffee. The Turkish coffee will lose its popularity more and more if the market is not responding quickly to a better quality. The young generation is open to new tastes; on the other hand the elder generation is instead very “loyal” to his coffee beans (Brazil Minas) that they used since decades.

M: Okay, as final question, what’s your biggest advice for people who want to become a successful barista?

S: Always remember that a barista is the key to success for a cafe. The barista is responsible for the coffee machine, the coffee beans, the milk and the cups. If you have the control of all of these products, it’s just in the hand of the barista to reach success.


Anonymous said...

Dear Author !
This theme is simply matchless :), it is interesting to me)))

Mahir said...

my pleasure :-)

Lazar said...

Hello from Croatia. I find this blog great I wait for new posts, keep up the good work.

Mahir said...

Thank you Lazar. :)
Nowadays, I'm so busy. But, I'm planning to put new posts this week.

Lazar said...

Great. I am a big Turkish coffee fan. Now I am discovering the history of the Turkish coffee in Croatia and there are a lot of interesting facts...

Mahir said...

Lazar, I'm also interested in history. Why don't you write a post here about Crotia and Turkish coffee? I would like to have you on my blog as a guest writer...

Lazar said...

Well, it will be great. I will try to prepare a post but I am busy these days. I will contact you after the holidays. I have enough information to write a short history of the Turkish coffee in Croatia and in some parts of Bosnia. Will be in touch.

Mahir said...

Thank you Lazar! It'll be great to find out more about Crotia and Turkish coffee.